MWCA Policy on Professional Ethics

Midwest Writing Centers Association Policy on Professional Ethics:
Harassment and Discrimination

The Midwest Writing Centers Association is committed to advocating for writing centers as sites where bigotry has no place. We recognize the degree to which discrimination, coercion, and harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical ability, national origin and age insult the dignity of our students and impede their freedom to learn and labor well.

Writing center directors and professional staff enjoy the honor and privilege of working closely with graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in a variety of contexts. We are teachers, writing consultants, supervisors, co-writers, mentors and colleagues of the students who work in our writing centers or who come to our centers for assistance with writing. Because of the close proximity in which we work with students, we understand that we have a particular responsibility to recognize the disparities in power between teachers, directors, supervisors and the students we teach, employ, and supervise. We understand that we have a particular responsibility to build, support, and sustain conditions in which students can learn and labor without fear of harassment, discrimination, and reprisal.

The MWCA endorses the Statement of Ethics of the American Association of University
Professors which reminds faculty and, we add, professional staff that any exploitation of students for personal advantage discourages the free pursuit of learning and is destructive of fair and equitable working conditions. Accordingly, we discourage romantic and sexual relationships between writing center directors or professional staff with any student, but especially with any student over whom they have direct or indirect authority. Even when such relationships seem to be consensual, we believe they have significant potential to disrupt the day-to-day work of writing centers, can turn exploitive, and present the appearance–if not the reality–of an ethical violation of the fair student-centered educational relationships that are the hallmark of our discipline. We encourage our members to familiarize themselves with the policies of their institutions regarding consensual relationships, sexual harassment and discrimination. When and if authentic consensual relationships develop between writing center directors or professional staff and students, it is our belief that the partner with the greater power and status (in this case the director or staff member) bears responsibility for disclosing the relationship appropriately to their institution and also the burden of accountability for the relationship.

The MWCA repudiates harassment in all its forms. We offer the following list of examples which is not meant to be exhaustive, but to orient our membership.

On the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, age, national origin, or physical ability

  • Verbal or physical behavior directed against an individual or group of individuals which has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile work, learning, or living environment
  • Verbal or physical behavior expressing hatred or contempt toward individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of stereotyped group characteristics or because of an individual’s affiliation with a particular group
  • Violence in word or deed against members of protected classes because of their group identification
  • Slurs or taunts, jokes, or disparaging remarks made in reference to the sex, sexual
    orientation, race, ethnicity, age, religion, national origin, or physical ability
  • The display of sexually explicit images in common areas (the writing center)
  • Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors that explicitly or implicitly affect educational or employment decisions
  • Any verbal or physical behavior that explicitly or implicitly could be interpreted by a reasonable person as an abuse of power

The MWCA encourages writing center directors and professional staff to consider developing statements of professional ethical and policies on discrimination and harassment for the writing centers which they lead and to use those texts in tutor preparation and continuing education. Members may feel free to model their local statements after those of the MWCA and to borrow language when appropriate or necessary.